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When Fashion Kills

Fashion Designer Kate Spade

Yesterday we lost another great fashion Icon, Kate Spade

Kate’s designs were bright and happy, and people stated you couldn’t be sad walking into a Kate Spade store. She projected an image of happiness in all her interviews, but we’ve since learned that it was a carefully crafted image to maintain “the brand.”

It can be dangerous when a person is also seen to be a brand. The pressure to maintain an image, at the cost of personal health, both physical and mental, can be unfair. People expect a certain image from the founder, and the public isn’t always forgiving of a bad day or a need for a time out.

Double down the need to maintain a public image, with the pressure of the current state of fashion, and the need to launch a new collection every week, and it’s no wonder that many designers are breaking down or walking away.

My own father was a fashion designer. (He died at age 36 of a heart attack) Back then, there was pressure to make beautiful clothes, but there was still seasons. Summer, Winter, and Resort. Then the industry moved to Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter and Resort. Now, in our days of consumerism, and each brands need to keep it fresh, there are new clothes coming out every week. There is no longer distinct seasons, it’s just weeks.

I was going to launch a clothing line, and when I talked to a manufacturer, they asked where my next set of clothes were. I had designed a small capsule, because I honestly think you don’t need an unlimited amount of clothes. It seems like the more clothes people have, the more likely they are to say they have nothing to wear. The most important thing my Dad taught me was to dress for comfort, not for fashion. He believed in having a personal style, and that you should have beautiful basics, and you can add accessories if you wanted to be current. It’s better to invest in a few well made pieces, that are timeless, that fit well, and are well made, than buying some new cheap thing every week, that doesn’t fit well and will become landfill in a month.

Fast Fashion is bad for the environment, it’s dangerous for workers, and it’s stressful for the fashion houses and designers.

I urge everyone to watch the documentary The True Cost.

Look at your wardrobe, and make informed purchases. See what you have, what you need, and then just fill those gaps. Look for brands that are ethically made. Look for designers that pay their workers well, use sustainable fabrics or who give back to charity.

Buy clothes that fit well, and are timeless. There’s nothing worse than buying something you can’t wear again next year because it’s so trendy it instantly dated. You don’t have to stick to solids, there’s plenty of lifestyle brands that have prints that are still wearable season after season. Think Lilly Pulitzer, Island Company, Tommy Bahama. All bright and fun, all classic and wearable for years to come.

Living on a boat forces me to be really picky about my wardrobe. I’m not just a small person, but I also want to be Small on the Earth.

Lilly Pulitzer Summer new arrivals

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Small on the Earth

It’s not just what I am, it’s what I want to be.

As a petite person, I find it hard to find small clothes. There are so few people who cater to petites. Some department stores might have petite sections, but it’s all grandma clothes. Some other places have clothes for smaller women, but they’re generally fast fashion outlets that make cheap clothing that will fall apart in a couple of washes.

It’s not just petites that have problems. I know plus size girls also complain about being able to find things that fit that are also stylish. I decided to do something about it, and create my own line.

I discovered some horrible things.

Consumers complain they can’t get certain clothing, but we’re party to blame. As people increasing demand cheaper clothing, faster fashion, and constant variety, people who make clothing are looking for cheaper ways to make this clothing. They’re designing clothes to be disposable. They’re only making certain sizes, because now that they’re outsourcing to places like China, they’re obliged to make 1000 minimum item runs. That doesn’t mean that they make 1000 of a certain item. It means they have to make 1000 of each size, and each color.

So I want to make a 7 piece capsule wardrobe. If I want to be conservative, and make a couple of different color options, say white and blue, I then also have to work out how many sizes I want to make. Do I go with S, M, L or do size 0, 2, 4, etc. If I was to have my clothes manufactured somewhere like China, even if I only do two colours, and S, M and L, I am now looking at 4200 pieces I have to manufacture. For a start up line. How on earth would I sell 4200 items to petites? It’s insane. So if one tiny line has to make 4200 items, imagine what places like Zara or H&M are producing?

I don’t want to make disposable clothing. I want to go back to the days where you had a few beautiful items that you could wear over and over. Things that were slightly more expensive, but that lasted forever. Things that were timeless, and didn’t go out of fashion a week after you bought them. People make fun of preppies, but you’ve got to hand it to them. They’re pretty environmentally friendly when it comes to their wardrobe. They own staple items, and wear them for 20+ years. They mend things. They hand them down. Their stuff doesn’t go out of style. (Well, to them anyway) When my dad was a designer, there was a couple of seasons. Now there are 52.

As I was looking into where I could get small production runs, with high quality fabrics and manufacturing, and devoid of any type of sweatshop labour, I started knowing more and more that I didn’t just want to make small clothes, I wanted to be small on the earth.

There’s an amazing documentary on Netflix called “The True Cost‘ and it can explain the true cost of fashion way better than I can. I already knew I wanted to go small, make lasting clothes, and hopefully, manufacture right here in the US, but this doco reaffirmed everything for me.

Please watch it before you buy your next $5 t shirt.